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Model railroad undergoing makeover

New display to resemble authentic operating railroad

Created date

November 20th, 2012

Rebuilding a model railroad with more than 500 feet of running track and an elaborate lifelike miniature town is no small task. But if you ask members of Oak Crest s model railroad club, they ll tell you that, just like a real-life train ride, when it comes to creating a great model railroad, it s not just the destination that matters; the journey is half the fun. There s a joke amongst model railroaders that no matter what your original plan is or what you start out to do, you re never really finished, says Clifford Parks, leader of the club. After 13 years, we have reached the point where, although what we have is great, we re just ready for a change.

Big plans for the miniature town

Over the next two years, the club plans to give the display, located in a 24-foot-by-24-foot room on the terrace level of the Erickson Living community s Calvert Court building, a facelift and rearrange the tracks for better flow. Over the next few months, we ll discuss plans and define what we want to change and replace, and what we want to keep, says Cliff, who joined the club when he moved to Oak Crest four years ago. The current display was originally designed as a Christmas garden. We would like to move to a more advanced model of an actual operating railroad. For example, we now have a portion of the display that represents the Dundalk Marine Terminal. But it just isn t big enough to work efficiently and represent what it actually looks like in real life. One of the things on our list is to expand and add to that. The club s current train display has been a work in progress for more than a decade with a total cost of nearly $13,000 money that comes from private donations and sales from Oak Crest s resident thrift shop, the Treasure Chest.

Child s play

In 1999, the club started out with eight men, led by resident Howard Marshall. Since then, the club has grown to 22 members. Like millions of Americans, Howard s love of trains started as a child. I got my first train set, a Lionel O gauge, at the age of five, he says. My father was a steam locomotive inspector for the B&O Railroad for 45 years, and trains were always a part of our family. A model B&O train is one of 21 engines the club operates from handheld controls that start, stop, control speed, and blow the train s whistle. Last year, the club added a new engine to their family Thomas the Tank, the well-known fictional steam locomotive that s popular with youngsters. A small, postage-sized camera is mounted to the front of one of the club s steam engines that projects an engineer s view onto a television monitor mounted above the tracks.

Stay on track

Although model railroading can often be a solitary pursuit, Cliff says all the members enjoy the camaraderie and welcome all Oak Crest residents who are interested in learning more about the hobby. If you have any interest, come on by, and we ll teach you everything you need to know, says Cliff. You can spend as much or as little time as you want down there. Cliff expects the changes will take at least two to three years to complete and says visitors are welcome during the rebuilding process. The model railroad is open to all Oak Crest residents and invited guests year-round every Saturday from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. and during the holidays on Thursdays and Saturdays from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m. Admission is free. Trains will remain in full operation while we are making changes, says Cliff. Anyone who visits us this Christmas will likely see something completely different next year.